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Susan Dickenson

East Coast retailers deal with damage, disruption in Hurricane Sandy's wake

Manhattan resident and retailer Bobby Berk said Hurricane Sandy's storm surge came in strong and swift Monday night, and was unlike anything he'd ever seen. As a resident and retailer in Lower Manhattan (his headquarters and

BBBobby Berk posted this Instagram photo Tuesday.
flagship Bobby Berk Home store are at 59 Crosby St.), Berk experienced the storm's wrath first-hand. Although there was no physical damage to the store, the power outage is affecting business and back office support for his other locations. Last night, understandably exhausted, he shared this account with Home Accents Today:

The building we live in was completely flooded out. At 1 a.m.  (Tuesday) morning it had about 11 feet of water in the lobby. All of the stores, restaurants and businesses on the first floor of any building within four blocks of the water did not survive Sandy's wrath. After Hurricane Irene barely kissed NYC when she came through last year, we all kind of brushed it off, but nothing could have prepared me for what I felt and saw. Besides the water, the wind was blowing our high-rise back and forth like a ship at sea.

We are completely without power as is everyone in NYC below 34th Street, and have evacuated to a hotel in Queens. Fortunately, we have a car, but for the millions of people there who don't, it's going to be a long next few days as stores, restaurants and gyms are without power and closed as well.

Bobby Berk Home's corp. office and flagship store are located in Soho which is below 34th Street. Although there wasn't any physical damage to our location here, we are definitely feeling the financial damage of not being able to operate due to the power issues. They are telling us that power should be restored within three to four days, but we are hoping that happens much quicker since not only are we losing business while our Soho store is closed, but our corporate office is the backbone of our other locations -- and none of our staff has power to be able to assist them in any way. With the power being out, the cellular data service is barely working at all.

A post on the Bobby Berk Home Facebook page indicates the company hopes to have its online customer service, administration offices and store back in business by Friday.

Ann Gish had yet to see the storm's effect on her retail store and warehouse when Home Accents Today made contact with her Tuesday morning. The Ann Gish retail store, wholesale showroom and design studio opened in June 2011 in a street-level space at 4 West 20th Street. Here is what she reported back:

We don't know how the store is; we can't even get there yet. We know that we have no power as it was turned off

Ann GishAnn Gish retail showroom and design studio at 4 West 20th St., photo taken August, 2011.
yesterday late afternoon. The building (150 Fifth Ave., an 11-floor structure built in 1888) is OK, according to the building engineer. I know nothing about my warehouse at 45th and 11th Avenue, just a block from the Hudson.

My apartment building was badly hit. In New York we have Local Law 11 which requires inspection and repair of the facades every five to seven years. That is the reason for the scaffolds in front of so many buildings. Well, our scaffolding started to come apart around 7 p.m. It is a total wreck, and many of the metal pieces flew into cars. It sounded like a war. But no one was hurt, and that is what matters most. I think New York will be "closed" until next weekend really.

This morning at approximately 11:30 a.m., Gish texted that she had just arrived at her warehouse, after walking 55 blocks to get there:

The amount of traffic is extraordinary since there are no subways or commuter trains. Store is still dark. We have been so lucky; it's become an adventure.

E-commerce site's headquarters are at 95 Morton St., one block from the Hudson River. The company, and approximately one third of its 225 New York-based employees are without power, and the building and street were impacted by the storm. However, the company is still maintaining a business-as-usual approach with daily offerings, and a holiday shop scheduled to launch Nov. 1.

Late yesterday, Jason Goldberg, the company's CEO, sent an email message to customers:

Our office is currently without power and it is closed until further notice. As our offices are on the 5th and 8th floors of the building, we are hopeful that there was no interior damage. Fab operates out of two warehouses in New Jersey. Both of our warehouses are currently without power and thus are closed. As such, we are unable to ship packages today. We hope to have power restored to our warehouses very soon.

About one-third of Fab's employees are currently without power. The other two-thirds of us with power are welcoming those without power into our homes. There's this beautiful, heart-warming email thread amongst Fab employees called, "Team Together" where team members with power are offering up their homes. It's special. We're a Fab Family.

Goldberg will continue to post updates and developments on his blog.

Farther south, on the banks of the Potomac River, Amy Rutherford of Red Barn Mercantile was breathing sighs of relief yesterday. Her home furnishings store is located in Old Town Alexandria, Va., which has seen the river overflow its banks during similar situations. From Amy:

We made it through just fine. Whew! We got a lot of rain and wind, but didn't lose any power or have any damages. Most of our area went unscathed, thankfully. We have a skylight in our store and there was some fear that it might leak so we moved things out of the way and put down tarps. My biggest concern was for my staff. We didn't take any chances with their - or my - safety and decided to close on Monday. We did use Facebook, local list-servs and our Old Town Boutique District connections to effectively communicate with folks. That was really helpful.

In Easton, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore, Decorating Den Interiors had to scramble to come up with alternate plans for a scheduled training session. Ross Feltz, the company's PR counsel, reported the following:

We had two new (Decorating Den Interiors franchise) owners, one from California, the other from Toronto, coming in for two weeks of our Professional Design and Sales School, scheduled to start on Monday. They made it into Easton on Sunday, but Monday we closed our offices as did many others in Talbot County. Our training director, Melanie Jakab, adapted quickly and taught abbreviated classes at the Hampton Inn, where the new owners were staying. Easton was not hit as hard but offices were still closed this morning.

Closer to the ocean, and about 70 miles from Easton, good news was reported by Casual Designs Furniture, located in Selbyville, Del. and Berlin, Md. on the Delmarva Peninsula. From Casual Designs' president, Dick Ludlam, this positive note:

Both of our stores, each just a couple of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, lucked out! We have been in business for over 50 years and have experienced hurricanes and Nor'easters and have many bad stories to tell, but Sandy just missed us. We feel very sorry for those who got hit by this terrible storm and what they are going through. This devastation on top of the economy will take strong people to overcome but this is what Americans can do.

Update, added 11/1/12:

Authentic Home Furnishings Association reported in a bulletin to members that considerable damage was done to Seaside Furniture in Tom's River, N.J. Seaside was acquired 14 months ago by the Lindners who also own Gelco Furniture in Ocean (near Asbury Park) and Tom's River, N.J. In an email to suppliers, the AHFA bulletin said, Lara Lindner gave the following report of the damage:

Unfortunately, Seaside Furniture has taken a terrible hit from this hurricane...the inside is all gone. There is some exterior damage, however the indoor contents are all 100% destroyed. ... 60,000 sq ft...unthinkable that not even 1 chair made it through. The 4 ft of water that had flooded the inside and 90 mph winds of this storm have destroyed everything in SS that we have built in the past 14 months. It is beyond words how devastating the store looks...

Lara also reported that their two Gelco stores fared much better but her parent's home was extensively damaged and they are overwhelmed by these events. In June 2011, Izzy Lindner, was struck and seriously injured by a car that crashed through the entrance of their Toms River store.

Flaxman Unfinished Creations in Rockville Centre on the south shore of Long Island had flood damage in their shop but we understand that the store was not damaged.

Loss of power, closed roads and the scarcity of gas are all factors resulting in difficulties and the loss of business for all retailers in the area.

As more information comes in, Home Accents Today will provide updates to this story.

See how furniture retailers in New York and New Jersey fared in sister publication Furniture Today's story by Clint Engel, here.


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